by Hannah Strode
It feels like a lifetime ago that me and a few of my flatmates turned up to Cellar Door in the misty rain to be greeted by the eclectic mixes and striking logo of the Exeter-based DJ collective, EXIT, for the first time. Ever since then, I’ve had a big, soft bass-y spot in my heart for them and their place in the Exeter music scene. Every time I go to an EXIT event I know I’ll have a good night, and I have massive respect for them for curating such a diverse, yet cohesive group of amazing talent.
So how was EXIT born? Alex Elder (a.k.a. wgwn) says that it was more adopted. Francesca Michaud worked for EXIT last year as a photographer and promoter and quickly realised that the brand had potential, eventually taking over the role as manager. She created a team of six and started increasing awareness about EXIT, and they’ve been going from strength to strength ever since. While Alex and Francesca didn’t come up with the name, he has had fun playing around with the logo, resulting in the tie-died logo T shirts that you might have seen them wearing on their nights. These have proved so popular that people keep asking EXIT to sell them - further proof of the solid base of support they have from those who attend their nights.
It’s clear that EXIT is formed from a genuine passion for the music and events that they host, and Francesca says that she has shaped her team around it. With regard to finding new talent for their DJ lineup, according to Alex it’s been a much smoother process than he thought, with everything from disco to DnB DJs sending in mixes for their perusal. Their knack for diversity shines through here too, as they try to have a large bank of residents so there’s never more than two names from the previous EXIT night on the next lineup. Not that this is a bad thing, Alex responds, they just like to surprise people and genre-hop a bit (something the house-obsessed Exeter ranks could probably do with a good dose of, in my opinion). Plus, Francesca tells me they’ve just started looking for outgoing, extraverted, and enthusiastic new promoters to swell their ranks, so here’s hoping they find more of that infectious passion which they’ve successfully harnessed so far.
I then asked them what their ideal Exeter venue was, and was overjoyed when they immediately reached the consensus of Cellar Door (‘100%’). It was Francesca’s favourite venue and she would go there two to three times a week in her Freshers year. Alex agrees that the low ceilings and the sound in that room was better than anything else in Exeter at the time. But, like us all, they must move on, and Francesca has high hopes for Mama Stones with it’s great sound system, good capacity, and lighting. Alex is yet to hear Reform’s sound system but has heard great things, so hopefully we’ll be treated to some EXIT events there this year as well.
I don’t know if I made it clear enough in my Eton Messy review, but I rather enjoyed EXIT on the Terrace, and Alex agrees that it was one of his favourite recent events. The place wasn’t instantly cleared as he feared, and I think he’s being a bit harsh on himself when he puts this down to people needing to smoke. He’s right when he says that people really got down to what he was playing (special mention from him of the mashup of Gotta Get Thru This with a Destiny’s Child acapella). One of the best events so far for Francesca has been the Young Ones event during Freshers, which I have heard nothing but good things about.
Alex was inspired to start DJing by a couple of performances that had a big impact on him, including a squat rave in Leytonstone where Crystal Castles and Crim3s DJed (I’m extremely jealous). But the definitive performance where he thought, “That’s it, I’ve got to save for decks,” was when he caught Melé and Lil Silva back-to-back. So it’s the energy coming off of the crowd which really seems to make a night for him, and I have his word that the atmosphere in the cramped, dingy room when Crystal Castles dropped an insane edit of Baptism was electric. He says he’s a music download addict, and barely finds the time to even listen to the 3 GB of music he downloads every month. This is where he finds tracks to mix, sometimes putting his iPod on shuffle to rediscover something he instantaneously wants to put in a set. If he’s playing for a mostly student audience, he tries to strike a balance between favourite club tracks and edits of really cheesy stuff. But even at a grime night he’s been known to throw in some edits of Beyoncé.
Both Alex and Francesca agree that they don’t really have a specific demographic, only people who enjoy underground vibes, want to have fun, and be open-minded. They want to see people who don’t care how stupid their best shapes may look because they’re too busy enjoying themselves. And this is the best thing about EXIT for me. They are welcoming and open, so long as you don’t yell “PLAY JUNGLE!” at Alex while he’s DJing. He wants to be able to play out some different kinds of music without fear that he may clear the dancefloor because it’s relatively unknown. Trust me, dear readers, you should let him. EXIT represent the antidote for the house-heads of Exeter, and they cure in style.
All in all, EXIT are set for a massive year ahead. They hope to get recognised by most of the students, making sure they’re known for their diversity. Alex has hopes of a Phoenix night in the future, plus getting some grime on an EXIT lineup with a Lord Of The Mics-esque clash by two MCs. He feels it’s hard to judge how people will receive it, but it’s something I would definitely turn out for.
So what have EXIT got coming up for us beat lovers this month? Their residents special is at Mama Stones on the 13th November, with local rig kings Will Rae and Awestruck (a.k.a. Amp And Decks), as well as some DnB from Cripla and Albin, and a trap set from Justin Mulli. They’re also excited about the 90-minute set from Mickey Pearce (of Swamp 81) on the 27th. Francesca thinks that while some people might have caught him in Bristol on the Beats & Bass trip, bringing him to an intimate space like Mama Stones should make for a very different experience.
EXIT’s favourite thing about EXIT? The satisfaction Francesca gets from growing the brand and seeing it become successful, and the feeling Alex gets after all the hard work for an event has gone in, when you see people walking through the door and having a good time on the night. And I have to agree - I have never had less than a great night at an EXIT event, and with the enthusiasm and passion they show for their brand, I can’t see how you aren’t opening up another tab to buy tickets to an EXIT event as you read this. No really, go do that. I’ll see you there.